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Senators not Interested in Europe?

In 2008 I wrote that "Senator Obama is criticized for failing to convene a single policy meeting of the Senate European subcommittee, of which he is chairman."

These days, this subcommittee is having meetings, but apparently nobody has attended the testimony by Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip H. Gordon except the committee's current chairwoman Senator Jeanne Shaheen.

Or is every senator just late? The screenshot is from the State Department's blog Dipnote with the embedded video playing for seven seconds. The senators missed the Philip Gordon's praise: "We have no better partner than Europe."

Tomahawk Missiles Instead of Fulbright Scholars

After 9/11, the US Congress realized the need for in-depth knowledge of world affairs and advanced language proficiency and increased the Fulbright-Hays budget. This program "supports research and training efforts overseas, which focus on non-Western foreign languages and area studies."

Apparently the post-9/11 era is over now. A few days after Bin Laden's death, the 2011 Fulbright-Hays dissertation fellowships have been cancelled due to budget cuts. $5,800,000 had been estimated, when the US Department of Education invited applications in September 2010, while pointing out that "the actual level of funding, if any, depends on final Congressional action."

It's a disgrace that this prestigious and important fellowship program does not have secure funding.

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The Return of the 90s

I watched the West Wing again recently. I associate this show with the upbeat 90s, the unipolar moment, and the pre 9/11 area, but it aired in the United States from 1999-2006, i.e. primarily during the Bush rather than the Clinton administration. I think for many Democrats the Clinton era continued on TV for two years, until 9/11 happened, the mood changed, 24 with Jack Bauer became popular and the West Wing ratings dropped.

Today I read on the State Department blog about an Ambassador Lyman traveling to Darfur. What? Did not Josh usually send Donna Moss to the dangerous places?

Secretary Clinton's statement on "our limitless faith in human potential" could very well have been from Bartlett as well. Secretary Clinton said after a meeting with EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Catherine Ashton on "advancing democratic values and universal rights, efforts to protect civilians and implement the United Nations Security Council resolution in Libya" and other issues:

The United States and the European Union are partners working together on, I think, every global issue and regional challenge that you can imagine. We're doing the urgent, the important, and the long-term all at once, and we are united in a transatlantic community that is based on shared democratic values and limitless faith in human potential.

Obama has not just killed Bin Laden. He also killed cynicism and brought humanitarian interventions back. The return of 90s. I can't wait for new West Wing episodes.

Understanding Germany

I am a big fan of The Economist, but the latest article on Germany's foreign policy "The unadventurous eagle" leaves me a bit confused. The title suggests that Germany is not going on foreign policy adventures. That's good, right?

The subheading, however, is negative and asserts cautiously "Europe's biggest economic power seems reluctant to have a foreign policy to match." So what? Japan, China, South Korea, Brazil do not match their economic power with foreign policy commitments either. Besides, the US and especially Greece have a disproportionately high defense spending considering the current state of their economy. If the Economist would accuse Germany of lack of NATO solidarity and burden sharing in Afghanistan and defense capabilities and readiness, I would agree.

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Defending Germany, Defending NATO, Defending Definitions

Jorge Benitez of the Atlantic Council writes in the New Atlanticist about the new NATO, which "is defined by US caveats, French political will, British leadership, German uncertainty, and a tangible level of commitment by some allies."

It's a good article, but I take issue with some of the harsher criticism against Germany, even though I agree that our foreign minister did not handle this issue well. Jorge writes:

Perhaps the most controversial component of the new NATO is Germany. Since World War II, Germany has kept a strong relationship with Paris and Washington, sometimes at the expense of one over the other. But even when exploring better relations with Moscow, Germany has always moved forward with preferably both, but at least one of its main allies. The Libyan crisis has been a painful exception. Berlin now seems to be pursuing a new path, Lostpolitik. How long will Berlin favor unilateral policies or new allies, instead of the allies that helped make Germany whole, prosperous, and free?

Germany's recent actions have had a deep impact on its allies. The US may not say so publicly, but privately, neither Washington nor Paris is certain that Germany can be counted on in times of conflict. At the same time, all across the alliance, voters are becoming more aware that after so many decades of being a consumer of security from NATO, Germany is now reluctant to become a provider of security for its allies. 

Furthermore, Berlin should be ashamed of excuses about coalition politics and electoral distractions. After all, Belgium was able to take its place on the front lines with its allies, even though it has not had a government in over a year.

What new allies? Allies are members of an alliance, which is a big deal. Germany abstained in the Libya vote. Russia, China, India and Brasil happen to have voted the same way, but that does not make these five countries allies. What is indeed shameful, however, is that according to Majid Sattar in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung our foreign minister and his staff made phone calls all night before the UN vote to convince other Security Council members to abstain.

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German Moralizers Criticize United States on Killing of Bin Laden

1. Many German politicians, media and church representatives criticize Chancellor Merkel for expressing her joy about the killing of Osama bin Laden, because it is not appropriate to have such a feeling when a human being gets killed. She was only "allowed" to express her relief. => Okay, fine with me.

2. The same folks also criticize those Americans who celebrated bin Laden's death. => Okay, fair enough. I do, however, consider the reactions understandable since he headed a terrorist group that killed thousands of Americans and was determined to kill more. Moreover, no government official celebrated. No "mission accomplished" parties. So, please let's not make a big deal out of it.

3. The same folks and several German law professors (in German) and talk show pundits question the legality of killing bin Laden. This issue seems to be dominating the debate in the German media currently. => Now I am getting annoyed. This is so typical. Aren't there bigger problems? Should not we question our policy on Pakistan? How supportive is the Pakistani military and intelligence of terror networks? As Leon T. Hadar writes in the Huffington Post: "Pakistan is a failed state with nuclear military power, whose elites and public are hostile to the U.S. and sympathetic to its enemies. (...) Pakistan is not a strategic ally but an irresponsible client state."

Law professors could also make sound proposals for ethical and efficient changes to international law to meet the realities of of the 21st century, like terrorism and assymetric warfare, failing states etc. That would be more important and more constructive than making a fuss about the killing of Bin Laden.

4. And this Süddeutsche article discusses whether bin Laden was buried correctly. => Give me a break and rethink your priorities.

Spiegel International provides an English language summary of some commentaries from German newspapers. More evidence for the above claims in this Tagesthemen commentary, which Davids Medienkritik would rip apart, if they'd still be active. Criticism of the German coverage can be found in Die Welt by Clemens Wergin and Alan Posner (all links in German)

Endnote: Last week Congressman Dana Rohrabacher responded to a four year old article on this blog. He provided some context to the quote "Well, I hope it's your families, I hope it's your families that suffer the consequences [of a terrorist attack]."